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Official Country Name: Republic of Benin
Region: Africa
Population: 6,395,919
Language(s): French, Fon, Yoruba
Literacy Rate: 37%

The Republic of Benin lies on the western coast of Africa, between Nigeria and Togo. The educational system was inherited from the French when the country achieved independence in August 1, 1960. It has since undergone many reforms to make it serve the country's needs. The system is public and secular, and consists of two years of preprimary education, six years of primary school, three years of junior secondary school, three years of senior secondary school, and a university. There are also three-year vocational or technical schools to attend in place of secondary schools.

Primary education begins at six years and is free and compulsory. But that does not guarantee that every child attends. In 1995 (the most recent statistics), primary enrollment was only 59 percent (males 74 percent, females 43 percent). Secondary education is not free, and enrollment is therefore considerably low. In 1994, enrollment in secondary school was only 16 percent (23 percent of males, 10 percent of females). Scholarships are available to girls from rural areas who want to attend secondary school.

A national exam is given at the end of each level of schooling to determine eligibility for further education. Students graduating from primary, junior secondary, and senior secondary schools receive the Certificate of Primary School (Certificat d'études primaires), Lower Secondary School Certificate (Brevet d'études du premier cycle) and Secondary School Certificate (Baccalauréat), respectively.

The National University of Benin at Cotonou, founded in 1970, is the primary institute of higher learning in the country. Student enrollment for 1997, the most current statistics, was 8,890. The university awards undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as special certifications from its many colleges, including the colleges of Letters, Art, and Human Sciences; Law, Economics, and Political Science; Science and Technology; Agriculture; and Health Sciences. A course of study runs from two to seven years, depending on the student's area of specialization. A secondary school certificate or the equivalent is needed for admission to the university. All students seeking admission to the National University of Benin or funds to study abroad can obtain financial assistance and scholarships.

The language of instruction in all Beninese schools is French; native languages as well as English are taught as subjects in the secondary and university levels. The school year runs from October to July, in terms from October to January, January to March, and April to July. The Ministry of National Education (Ministère de l'Education nationale) oversees the educational system at all levels.

After the collapse in 1989 of the Marxist-Leninist oriented government, the new Beninese democratic government initiated massive programs to revamp the educational system, which had collapsed during the last years of the Marxist-Leninist regime. The central objectives of the reform were to restore efficiency and quality of instruction at the primary and secondary schools by providing better teacher training and facilities and updating school curricula; to increase access to and promote female participation in the school system; to reduce the cost of vocational schools; and to provide instruction that empowers students to function adequately in the Beninese economy.

With financial and technical support from many international organizations, Benin has made tremendous progress in its educational reform initiatives. The government consistently makes education a priority by allocating more funds towards the school system each fiscal year. In 1990, the budget allocation for education was 14,839 million francs FCA, representing 12.8 percent of the national budget. The 2001 budget allocated 22 percent of its funds to education.


Djibril, M. Debourou. The Process of Education Policy Formation in Africa, The Case of Benin. Paris: Association for the Development of African Education, 1995.

Guezodje, Vincent. "Educational Reform in Benin." Prospects 8 (1977): 455-471.

—Salome C. Nnoromele

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